City officials defended their contract with a South Philadelphia garage on Wednesday, a day after questions arose about its ties to a reputed mob associate now charged in a murder-for-hire case.
Over the last four years, the city has paid American Collision & Automotive Center, an auto-body shop run by the children of Ronald Galati, nearly $1.3 million for repair work to fleet vehicles, including police cruisers.
Galati, a 63-year-old employee of the business with close ties to former Philadelphia mob boss Joey Merlino and consigliere George Borgesi, was charged Saturday with solicitation to commit murder, witness retaliation, and intimidation.
But it was an earlier criminal case that prompted questions this week about the garage's city contracts.
In 1995, Galati was sentenced to three years in prison on federal racketeering charges stemming from an insurance fraud operation run out of another garage.
On Wednesday, Michael McDonald, a spokesman for Mayor Nutter, said the city was not aware of Galati's past when it granted the contract to American Collision.
City procurement officers do not regularly vet potential service contractors for criminal convictions, he said. But it is unlikely they would have found anything suspicious even if they had.
The contract, which expires next month, was signed by Galati's son, Ronald Jr., who is listed in state business filings as American Collision's president.
"During the course of its contract, American Collision has done good work," McDonald said. "They do it on time and work within appraisal estimates."
Details of the elder Galati's current criminal case remain shrouded in grand jury proceedings.
Police and prosecutors declined to comment on the investigation Wednesday. Galati's lawyer said he had not yet been informed of the allegations against his client.
Citing court documents, the Philadelphia Daily News reported Tuesday that Galati stood accused of hiring hit men to kill three potential witnesses who could testify against him in an ongoing grand jury investigation into insurance fraud.
As of late Wednesday, Galati remained in the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility awaiting a bail hearing scheduled for Monday.